Life in the Army
The drum controlled a soldier’s day. The fifers and drummers in each regiment played different tunes to tell the soldiers where they should be and what they should be doing. Here are some examples.
Reveille was beat at sunup. It meant that it was time for the soldiers to get up and get ready for their day. Sometimes the “GENERAL” was played instead of “REVEILLE.” That meant soldiers should take down their tents and get ready to march from camp.
Troop or Assembly
“SINGLINGS AND DOUBLINGS OF THE TROOP” were beat at 8:00 a.m. in the summer and 9:00 a.m. in the winter. It meant that soldiers should gather or assemble so the officer could call the roll and inspect the men for duty.
After inspection, the soldiers were sent off to do their work for the day. They marched and drilled often so they would be ready in case there was a battle. If they had to cut firewood or haul water, there were signals that the drummer would play.
“RETREAT” was beat at sunset. The roll was called again. Punishments were often carried out at this time. The drummers got to use their cat o’ nine tails, which was a whip with nine strands of rawhide with knots on the end. Often a prisoner was marched by the troops to the tune “ROUGES MARCH.” After the flag ceremony, orders were given about the work to be done the next day. Then the soldiers had free time. They would have their supper. Then they might clean their equipment, and they might patch or mend their clothing. They also played games like dice and pitch penny, even though they weren’t supposed to gamble. Card playing and draughts (checkers) were also popular.
If it was an unlucky day, the soldiers might fight in a battle. The drum signaled the army where to march, which way to face and fire, to advance or fall back, and lots of other things. Why was a drum used? It was louder than the human voice and could be heard above the noise of battle.
“TATTOO” was beat at about 9:00 p.m. in the summer when the days are longer, and 8:00 p.m. in the winter. It was the signal for the soldiers to go into their huts or tents and stay there until “REVEILLE” the next morning.
Is your day a little like a soldier’s day?